1940s Classic Molasses Maple Bars
What Is A Molasses Maple Bar?
These classic molasses maple bars have been decked out by adding nut meats and chocolate toffee bits instead of raisins, dates, or figs. The recipe comes from housewives needing to make a nutritious dessert with little to no sugar available for homes due to the wartime rations. During WWII, sugar imports were cut by two thirds. To keep the price down and to ensure all homes would have some sugar at a reasonable price, suagr along with other food sources wer rationed by the Office of Price Administration.
The closest baked good to the molasses maple bar is the well-known New England Hermit. Hermits were a small cake that was brought over to the United States from England. The earliest cookbooks that lists this recipe seems to begin in the 1880’s in both Boston, MA. and Plattsburgh ,NY. These recipes called for a heavily spice dough with raisins or currants but did not contain any eggs. Over the years eggs were added along with brown sugar.
The molasses maple bar came to me via a recipe book from World War II that helped American households find a way to make nutritious meals and desserts without using all of their ration stamps. The recipe was neatly hand written, folded and placed in the pages of this recipe booklet. Whoever wrote it, created a recipe that would give her family a treat and stay within their families rationing needs.
Investigating A Found Recipe
When I made this recipe for the first time, I wasn't sure how it would turn out. I am not a big fan of cooked fruit in baked goods, so I scrounged through my baking cabinet and found pecans and chocolate toffee bits. I substituted the fruit and placed the pan in the oven to bake. Once they were cut and ready to eat, it was the true test; eating a recipe I had never heard of.
I love the smell of allspice and molasses and while the bars were baking the house filled with that fragrance. The first bite into the bar reminded me of a hermit as far as the texture of the cake but these were lighter and not as heavily spiced. The addition of nuts and chocolate toffee bits gave these bars an added bonus. Needless to say, they just tasted like one more. One other recommendation I have is to have a tall glass of fresh, cold milk in the opposite hand. These two items complement each other exceptionally.
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Prep & Cook Time
A Few Things More
- Shortening, butter or non-stick spray
- Powdered sugar
- Piece of waxed paper
- 13 X 9 X 2 baking dish
- Cooling rack
IngredientsNeeded to Make Bars
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 1/4 cup Butter, softened
- 1 Egg
- 1/2 Cup Molasses
- 2 Cups Flour, sifted with the next 4 ingredients
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon Allspice
- 1/2 cup Milk
- 1/4 cup Maple Syrup
- 1 cup Nut Meats, broken into small pieces
- 3/4 cup Chocolate Toffee Bits
How to Create This Recipe
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Grease a 13 X 9 inch baking dish. You can use cooking spray, butter or even shortening. Dust pan bottom with powdered sugar.
- In the mixing bowl, add in the sugar and butter. Beat until soft, light and creamy.
- Beat in the egg. The mix should be a very light yellow color.
- Add in the molasses. mix for 1 to 2 minutes while scraping down the sides of your bowl as needed.
- Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and allspice. Divide in to thirds.
- Have milk and maple syrup measured out and ready to add by the mixing bowl.
- Place 1/3 of the flour into the batter. Incorporate this thoroughly before adding in 1/2 of the milk. Once the milk is thoroughly mixed in, add in 1/3 of the flour. Then add in the maple syrup,mix thoroughly and finish off the batter by adding in the last of the flour followed by the rest of the milk.Make sure each addition is thoroughly mixed in before adding in the next ingredient.
- Remove bowl from mixing stand. Mix in by hand the chocolate toffee pieces. Mix in the nuts by hand and the place the batter into the baking dish.
- The batter will be thick and sticky. Use a spatula to place mounds of the batter all across the baking dish as best as you can.
- Use a piece of waxed paper to push the batter around and fill in the entire bottom of the baking dish with your hand. Peel off the waxed paper. A little bit of batter may be removed with the waxed paper. but there should not be chunks coming off with it.
- Bake for 20 minutes and test the bar with a toothpick for doneness. The tooth pick should come out clean. If it doesn't, bake for 5 more minutes and retest.
- Once fully baked, place on a cooling rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Cut bars and place on a serving tray. You can sift a bit of powdered sugar on top of the bars if desired.
Bake & Go 13 X 9 Dish
Tip On Breaking Up Nut Meats
When a recipe calls for broken nut meats and all you have it whole nuts, give this simple method a try.
- Place the measured amount of nut meat in a zip lock bag.
- Place a pie crust cloth down on a hard surface and bring out the rolling pin.
- Remove cover from rolling pin if it has one. Start moving the over the bag of nuts.
- Flip the bag over and roll in short, sharp strokes till nut meats are broken but not crushed.
- Measure the nut meats once more in case of shrinkage. If you have shrinkage, repeat process with a new zip lock bag.
Make This Bar Your Own
Please feel free to add and subtract filling ingredients to suit your own taste.
- You can use dried fruits, but make sure they are chopped before mixing in.
- Not a big fan of the seasoning Allspice? Use apple pie, pumpkin pie or your own combination of spices. Just remember that 1 teaspoon is all you need. Break down the teaspoon according to how many spices you are going to use.
- Any kind of nut can be used. Walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts and even pistachios. You can toast the nut meats before you break them up for an added flavor.
- Replace the chocolate toffee bits with mini chocolate morsels. Use what you enjoy the most. Dark,light or white chocolate whether it is chips or peels will just enhance this molasses maple bar.
© 2014 Susan McLeish